We flew into Port Morsby on time then attempted to catch our next flight to Goroka. That flight was cancelled so the airline put us up in a hotel for the night. A man with New Tribes Missions named Steve met us at the airport and helped us figure out what we needed to do. Customer service is always sketchy in third world countries. After a lengthy visit with customer service, they rebooked us on the next morning flight out and arranged for us to stay at a hotel on their dime. We had to wait at the airport for a ride for over an hour. After an interesting 15 minute ride we arrived at the hotel. That night we ate at the hotel restaurant and went back to the room which had a TV. We turned it on and watched the Discovery Channel. We all thought it was interesting watching the Discovery Channel in PNG. The next morning we had to be at the airport at 5am to get our tickets and wait for our 8:15 am flight.
Our small turbo jet plane departed Port Morsby on time and arrived safely in Goroca. Goroca is a small town with only a few thousand people. There are no roads from Port Mosby to Goroca. In fact, there are no roads that span the entire country. A man from NTM named Raymond met us at the airport. He is from Ireland and speaks with a heavy accent. He took us on a five minute tour of the city, which resembled Haiti, then drove us to the NTM camp 16 miles out of town.
The NTM mission center sits on 33 acres. It’s a beautiful location on the side of a hill so there is very little flat ground other than the soccer field and tennis court recreation areas. There are 67 simple houses on the site. There is also a gym which doubles as the church, a 7-12 school, dormitories for the students, administrative offices, a supply store for the missionaries, a grounds facility, and a few other buildings. We stayed in the guest house which was very nice.
We spent the day visiting with NTM people and learning more about what they do. There is a road that loops around the grounds. The road on top and the road on the bottom are flat, the other two are vertical, which made for a nice walking track for the missionaries. We were walking on it and met a man named Brian who was driving his golf cart home. He is the grounds and facilities manager. He told us more about NTM than we had previously known. We learned about the missionary store and how the missionaries send in their requests for supplies and someone else picks them out and prepares them to get sent out. We learned how the finances department works and that each missionary is responsible for paying for every aspect of their “church plant” in the tribe from supplies to paperwork. NTM is a lean operation and everyone has to pay for their ministry from the staples to the paper. Brian said they are down on administrative people and are in need of good teachers who stay longer than one year. They also need more people in the IT department and finance. He noted it’s hard to find self-supporting missionaries to fill these positions.
After dinner we socialized a bit with a man from TEC (don’t know what it stands for). He serves missionaries by installing communication systems for them. They were digging in new phone lines while we were there. He had a retired man helping him. This guy took an early retirement from ATT and has spent the past 20 years going around the world installing phone systems for missionary groups. He was visibly excited about what he was doing.
Day 3, Monday.
In the morning Raymond took us to the NTM airport where we had to weigh in prior to flying. All of our gear was weighed along with us. After determining our total weight they added a few filler packages so we would fly at max weight and bring much needed supplies out to the bush with us. We left via chopper about 8:45. Josh and Van told me to sit in the front which I was happy to do. The flight took an hour and went over some of the most remote areas in the world. It was beautiful and breathtaking just to see all of the untouched ground below us.
Chris and Maggie live on a mountain ridge. The other villages are spread out along the ridge and each village has about 3 huts on it with three or four families living in each hut. I didn’t expect them to live on a ridge. It’s literally on the top of the ridge and if you look to the left you look down or look right you look down. It’s crazy. There is one flat spot the locals have leveled. It is large enough for the helicopter to land on and easily visible from the air.
We arrived safely on the heli-pad and unloaded all our gear. Chris and Maggie met us on the pad along with a whole lot of local PAL people who gathered to see the helicopter. We refueled the helicopter with a hand-crank pump with stashed fuel and the pilot took off.
After settling into our room we hiked down to the “soccer field,” the only larger flat area the locals use to play soccer. You can see the field from Christ and Maggie’s ridge, but it’s on another lower ridge and is well over an hour hike. The hike to get there takes you on rugged mountain trails that are treacherous. You have to watch your feet every step so you don’t trip. We had to navigate across a rocky waterfall, across a mountain river, and through muddy crevasses then we finally made it to our destination. Although difficult, it was very fun. After absorbing the view, we hiked back the same way we came. That night we ate a good dinner, enjoyed some conversation, and retired for the night.
Day 4, Tuesday.
The wind blew like crazy all night and ushered in plenty of rain making a muddy, soupy, mess of every trail. We ate breakfast and prayed for a break in the weather so we could walk to another village to see the students attending the school that Chris and Maggie started six months ago.
We arrived at the school early enough to see the first of two classes finish. The students are taught by an advanced student who is further along in their education. All of them were eagerly learning to recognize letters and speak them. It was fascinating to watch them learn.
After observing Chris and the other native teacher for a while, we all departed walking down to another village. This village had three huts, all of which were in very good condition. One even had erected a fence around his hit to make it look pretty. All the occupants were gone working their gardens. The trail to their huts was very difficult. It was muddy, slippery, and full of natural obstacles like rocks, logs, mud holes, and the like. Even though the trail was difficult, we enjoyed walking it.
We returned, ate lunch, and then walked down to the neighbor’s house to complete a project for him. He needed us to build him a wall separating one room from another. We spent the afternoon doing this with only a brief stop for a cup of coffee. The man who occupies the home is on the NTM team. His name is Axel. He is married to Sonja and they have two young children. They were elated that we helped them to finish the wall. They are the newest member of the NTM team. A total of three families live in the PAL tribe and work on translating, teaching, and ministering to the people.
After dinner we spent time talking with Chris and Maggie. Van and Josh cut out old caulk from behind the sinks and bathtub and prepared to replace it in the morning while we talked. They shared the biggest struggle they have is working with the others on the team. They noted that they have a great team, but other teams have fallen apart due to personality clashes. Living in such close quarters, it’s easy to see how this can happen. Chris and Maggie had one stretch where they lived in the bush for 10 months before going back into Goroca. They said they would never do that again.
During our conversation they shared about how the translation process works. So far they have completed Genesis and Mark. They translate the English to Pal then they have to get it approved by someone else who is a translation specialist. The entire process takes months and they pass the translations back and forth three or more times to make edits. Chris and Maggie have to pay for the printing of the translated books as well as the translator costs. It is time consuming and expensive. After further dialogue, we went to bed exhausted from an incredible day.
Day 5, Wednesday.
Today we woke up to gale force winds and driving rain. After breakfast we walked down to Axels’ house for prayer. We spent time praying then came back up to the house to prepare the morning lesson. We walked to the next village where Chris shared he will be teaching the people a review of the lesson on Sunday. After all the people gathered, he began his lesson. Christ estimated 50 people came, but I counted 140. He spent an hour teaching families about Jesus using pictures that are printed on large cards. Everyone here learns by narrative. Chris started with Genesis and told the story of God. Now there are many believers here due to their work. It’s incredibly rewarding to see how God has blessed their ministry.
After the teaching time we came back home. We arrived just in time because it started to rain like crazy again once we got back. We had lunch then I spent the afternoon editing film. Van and Josh read in the room while the kids enjoyed some of the snacks we brought for them.
At night we spent more time talking with Chris and Maggie about their needs. They are doing very well. The biggest thing for them was just being in the know. They were very interested in finding out what is happening at Freshwater and the community. Since they live in the bush, they feel disconnected. It doesn’t help that the internet is so slow they can’t load any websites. This week the internet didn’t work at all.
Day 6, Thursday.
It rained all day. Not part of the day or an hour of the day, all day. There was a one hour break from the rain in the afternoon and all the kids went outside to play.